Will Politics 1.0 Swallow Government 2.0? a response.

Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio has penned a couple of sparky posts this week about the more trenchant realities of government 2.0. In 'Will Politics 1.0 Swallow Government 2.0?' he characterised Tom Steinberg's decision to advise the Tories as heralding the way that gov 2.0 leaders will inevitably align with politics 1.0:

"What interests me, though, is how people like Steinberg in the UK or like Beppe Grillo in Italy feel the urge to join or take sides with a party, although they have been making independence and grass-root approach their mantra."

The reason being that bloggy tweety aggregation is all well and good but if you want to get stuff to stick in the real world you need established structures. "Perhaps going back into existing silos is the price to be paid for moving from vision to execution". That's the bit that makes me smile - the idea the the government, or any large incumbent institution, represent the best hope for executing anything flies in the face of experience, especially when it comes to anything that involves tech.

My sense is that it's easier for mySociety types to cleave to The Man because their agenda is to make current modes work more smoothly, rather than to question the distribution of power at a basic level. Shame, because the interesting thing about Stuff 2.0 is its potential to leak a bit of power back to a peer-to-peer model. That's not to deny the challenge of sustaining bright ideas in a hard economic reality, which is why I wrote about Lightweight Structures for Social Innovation Startups after the first SICamp. But politics 1.0 has the gravitational pull of a black hole and the only way to break the paradigm is to connect digital innovation with social movements that are the soil for its participatory roots. So, for example, if you really want to see government 2.0 you'd be better off doing digi with Transition Towns than with the Green Party.

And that's why I was rocked to see the title of Andrea's follow up post 'Why Government 2.0 Has Little To Do With Government'. Critiqueing the idea that gov 2.0 is about the ways "organizations and institutions can leverage technology to improve effectiveness and efficiency and to better engage constituents" he reframes the issue: "The problem is that government 2.0 is not about organizations and institutions. It is about the way in which constituents aggregate and socialize knowledge in ways that change their expectations and how they relate to government institutions." It's nicely articulated but stays on the safe ground of information and knowledge. I'd contend that the bolder win is for people to aggregate and socialize solutions i.e. actual functioning answers to social needs, whether stand-alone, grant funded or direct hacks of gov operations. That's what Social Innovation Camp has been trying for, and it'll be interesting to see which side of the wavy grey line that folk at the myPublicServices unconference will plump for.

Image courtesy of edmittance: part of his work with Transition Towns.